Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Favorite Horror Movie Themes

Once upon a time there were not soundtracks for horror films, there were scores. Scores have become a bit of a lost art in the horror movie and yet they contributed so much to making most of the major horror classics what they are today. Gone are the atmospheric and creepy tunes that set the tone for the horrors to come. They've been all but replaced with the most popular rock songs of the moment and it's my personal belief that this has had a huge negative impact on the horror movies of recent. They just don't make 'em like they used to. If you need any proof of this, go pop in The Hitcher remake. The All American Rejects don't exactly inspire fear. Nor does Nazareth's Love Hurts put you in the mood for Michael Myers, does it? Can you even imagine Halloween without John Carpenter's classic tune? Can you imagine The Exorcist without Tubular Bells? I'd personally prefer not to. But everyone already knows and loves scores like these as well as those of films like Psycho, Jaws, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare On Elm Street, so i'm here to talk about some of my personal favorite lesser appreciated horror scores ; some new, most old, and share why I love them so much.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space

While the synth score throughout this whole film is absolutely awesome, it's the main theme song that really captured me. An original song being created just for a movie is a lost art form in it's own right. This theme was done by the 80's punk band The Dickies, while we have composer John Massari to thank for the rest of the score. Whenever I watch the movie it takes a good few days to get this jingle out of my head.

PT Barnum said it so long ago
theres one born every minute don't you know
some make us laugh some make us cry
these klowns honey gonna make you die
everybodys running when the circus comes into their town
everybodys gunning for the likes of the killer klowns
from outer space...

Near Dark

German electronic group Tangerine Dream's beautifully haunting score in Near Dark is one of the main reasons I love the film so much. It really manages to capture exactly what it's about and adds such a layer of atmosphere to the proceedings. In fact, I think this was the first movie i'd ever seen where I really noticed the score and was impacted by it. It almost becomes a character in the film, with very few scenes not having some kind of music in the background.


This almost carnival like theme song is a large part of what makes Candyman such a creepy film. Phillip Glass is the mastermind behind it and in fact, this little diddy is the most memorable thing from the entire film for me. It's a jingle that I still to this day often put on in the background as I sit here and type.

Return Of The Living Dead

This fun theme by Francis Haines fits the tone of the horror/comedy to an absolute tee and is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated gems in the annals of horror film scores. Not much else to say about that.


While frequent Argento collaborators Goblin composed the scores for Deep Red and Tenebrae, it was Suspiria that they are perhaps best known for. This score is considered by most to be nothing short of a masterpiece and it has even been re-used for several Hong Kong films of the late 70's-early 80's. The score is as pivotal and important to the film as anything else and the creepy underlying voices throughout the tune add a real sense of dread to the film.


Fulci always has awesome music in his movies, and Zombie is certaintly no exception. Fabio Frizzi composed this score as he did with Fulci's The Beyond and City of the Living Dead. Sometimes the music in the movie really doesn't seem to even fit with what's happening on screen, but that off the wall quality is what makes it so cool and memorable. This main theme is fairly simple but manages to tell a story and it's almost impossible to not imagine the scenes in your head as it plays.


Phantasm in it's own right is one of the most unique and underrated horror films of all time. It may not really make much sense when it's all said and done, but it's a hell of a fun ride. This creepy little tune from composer Fred Myrow is a big part of what seperates this one from all the other horror films being poured out at the time, at least to me. I feel like the Tall Man is gonna come turn me into a midget slave just listening to it.


I talked a little about this one when I recommended May last week. This score by Jaye Barnes Luckett of the rock band Poperratic is one of the most effective in recent horror history and conveys the sadness and loneliness of the title character beautifully. It's almost as if May herself wrote the music.

Bubba Ho-Tep

There are more than a couple scenes in this movie that, along with the score, give me chills everytime I see it. The scenes of Bruce Campbell as Elvis getting out of his limo and Elvis and 'JFK' respectively walking and wheeling down the rest home corridors in particular are two of such scenes. Brian Tyler managed to create an awesome and even at times quite moving musical accompanient for one of the most misunderstood masterpieces of our time.

While I cannot argue the fact that sometimes rock songs are exactly what a horror movie needs (see : Devil's Rejects), there will never be anything like an awesome score to accompany a horror movie and we must show our appreciation to the filmmaker's who are keeping it alive. Long live the score!

Before I go, credit to YouTube members EineVampyrDesGrauens, PhoohPhah, vedraville, MZapdos, Deliriaframe, Caligula0602, Tarmansbasment, and xxxxasile44xxxxx for uploading all of these babys.


EyeloveMetal said...

Fulci movies have the BEST horror scores!

Rob said...

Yeah some of those movies were totally freaks me out..I also love those zombie movies..and funny thing every time there's an out coming zombie movie i do make sure to have of course a deep discount dvd copy of it...i do really enjoy watching them over and over...yay!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your inclusion of Suspiria and Phantasm.

Myself (Not including the obvious ones), I like the scores for Magic, Puppet Master and Tourist Trap, all masterful (And coincidentially, all having to do with killer inanimate objects :P).